ST. LOUIS -- The Blues arrived in the early hours Monday morning fresh off a 5-1 road victory at the Colorado Avalanche, and with another important game on tap for today against the Arizona Coyotes, it was a very limited group of skaters on the ice.
But among those that skated, and skated at a good pace were rookie left wing Robby Fabbri, who's missed two games with a lower-body injury, and defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, who's missed the past five games with what are believed to have been concussion symptoms.
Fabbri and Bouwmeester were joined on the ice by defenseman Petteri Lindbohm, right wing Ryan Reaves and goalie Brian Elliott, who will start tonight but neither will play.
"Bouwmeester, Fabbri skated today and they aren't ready," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We'll have both join us as full participants on the practice on Wednesday. We're leaning towards taking Tuesday off or having it as an optional and we'll practice with them full on Wednesday and then see how they look on Wednesday whether they play Thursday or not."
The Blues say both will be re-evaluated at the end of the conclusion of the regular season.
"Obviously David's an impact player."
Backes had a goal and assist in 16 minutes 54 seconds of ice time and won seven of 11 faceoffs; Hitchcock said the injury occurred when Backes made a pass with 2:55 remaining in the game on a Troy Brouwer empty-net goal.
The goal is to try and have both available for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which are slated to begin April 13.
"You know what the playoffs are like. You try and play. If you've got to play at 80 percent, you play at 80 percent. You're hopeful that you're at 100 (percent), but none of us can honestly tell you right now until these things are moved a little bit further down the dial here. It's not what we hoped for, it just seems to be what our season's been about and we've got to step up.
Steve Ott, who's been nursing those torn hamstrings injured on Dec. 5, was not on the ice Monday morning with the other skaters.
If Fabbri and Bouwmeester are able to play, Magnus Paajarvi or Dmitrij Jaskin and Robert Bortuzzo are the likely players that will be healthy scratches.
- - -
With a game in hand Monday against the Coyotes (35-36-7), the Blues (46-23-9) will attempt to pull into a first-place tie with the Dallas Stars in the race for the Central Division title.
The Blues' win at Colorado on Sunday night, coupled with the Stars' 3-1 loss at the Anaheim Ducks means the Blues have the chance to pull even in points (105) with the Stars. However, Dallas holds the tiebreaker in regulation or overtime wins. Dallas has 46, St. Louis has 42.
The Blues, who have won six of seven, have a chance to distance themselves from the third-place Chicago Blackhawks with a win. It would put St. Louis six points ahead of the Blackhawks with two games remaining; Chicago has three.
"We know what's in front of us, we know what's behind us," defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "The biggest thing is worry about ourselves. We know if we play the way we can, we're going to put ourselves in a good position. We want to make sure we're going full speed here going into the playoffs."
Before the Blues played Sunday, the Blackhawks applied some heat with their 6-4 home victory against the Boston Bruins to pull within two points of the Blues, but St. Louis' focus is still winning the division and not worrying about who's behind them.
"I think we're still trying to pay attention to Dallas," Hitchcock said. "You work all year and you've got a chance for first place, you want to keep going. That's the goal, and then after we finish against Washington (in the season-finale on Saturday), you turn the page and wherever you start, you start. I think it's all about momentum and playing well."
- - -
The Blues' projected lineup:
Alexander Steen-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko
Magnus Paajarvi-Paul Stastny-Troy Brouwer
Jaden Schwartz-Patrik Berglund-Dmitrij Jaskin
Scottie Upshall-Kyle Brodziak-Ryan Reaves
Joel Edmundson-Alex Pietrangelo
Carl Gunnarsson-Kevin Shattenkirk
Colton Parayko-Robert Bortuzzo
Brian Elliott will start in goal. Anders Nilsson is expected to be the backup.
The healthy scratches could be either Magnus Paajarvi or Dmitrij Jaskin and Petteri Lindbohm. Robby Fabbri (lower body) and Jay Bouwmeester (upper body) are questionable and Steve Ott (hamstrings) is doubtful. Jake Allen (lower body) and David Backes (lower body) are out.
- - -
The Coyotes' projected lineup:
Alex Tanguay-Antoine Vermette-Anthony Duclair
Tobias Rieder-Laurent Dauphin-Jiri Sekac
Max Domi-Brad Richardson-Shane Doan
Jordan Martinook-Boyd Gordon-Kyle Chipchura
Oliver Ekman-Larsson-Connor Murphy
Kevin Connauton-Zbynek Michalek
Klas Dahlbeck-Alex Grant
Mike Smith will start in goal. Louis Domingue will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Nicklas Grossman, Sergei Plotnikov and Viktor Tikhonov. Martin Hanzal (upper body), Anders Lindback (Achillies), Eric Selleck (upper body), Michael Stone (knee) and Joe Vitale (head) are out with injuries.